How to Modify a Parenting Plan in Florida: Process, Costs, & Reasons

Modifying a parenting plan is the process of altering prior agreements between two divorcing spouses over how they will each participate in their child’s life.

A parenting plan is a legally binding court order for child custody and time-sharing. The process of modifying a parenting plan differs based on whether both spouses agree to the changes.

If both parents agree to modify the parenting plan after a divorce, they must submit a formal request to Florida courts to revise the order. Otherwise, the parent seeking modification must submit a new petition proving a material and substantial change in circumstances.

Both circumstances require filing, attorney, and court hearing fees.

There are many valid reasons for modifying a parenting plan in Florida, such as a relocating parent, refusal to follow court orders, changes in the child’s needs or a parent’s situation, and whether the child is in danger.

How to Modify a Parenting Plan When Both Parents Are in Agreement

Under Florida child custody laws, a custody agreement outlines the legal and physical arrangements for the care, residence, and decision-making responsibilities concerning the children involved in a divorce or separation. Modifying a parenting plan when both parents agree begins with discussing all the circumstances requiring alterations.

Afterward, they must draft a parenting plan, sign it in the presence of a notary, and submit a supplemental petition for the revised plan to the court.

1. Speak to the Other Parent

When both parents discuss the major issues requiring modification after divorce, the following arrangements must be agreed upon:

  • Residential Custody: This focuses on how often the child or children will stay with each parent every week or month.
  • Legal Custody: Legal custody grants a parent decision-making authority for a child. Both parents must confirm if the current arrangement is still suitable.
  • Parenting Time and Visitation: Parents must agree on a schedule that benefits the child’s best interest.

After both parents agree on specific changes regarding the above factors, they must draft a new parenting plan satisfying everyone’s best interest.

2. Draft a Parenting Plan

Florida law has different parenting plans to accommodate various reasons for modification.

These include basic or “typical” plans (Form 12.995a), supervised or safety plans (Form 12.995b), and relocation or long-distance plans (Form 12.995c).

These Florida court forms streamline parenting plan modifications, ensuring efficiency after divorce.

Both parties should search for the applicable form from the Florida court website.

Basic Plans

A basic plan, or Form 12.995(a),refers to parenting plans encompassingall substantial changes or agreementsfor a child’s best interest.

The following are the minimum requirements Florida courts require:

  • A comprehensive description of daily task sharing between parents.
  • A detailed parenting time agreement between both parties.
  • Details on which parent has more authority over the child or children.
  • A communication plan to maintain a close and continuing relationship.

There are several key sections in a basic plan that both parents must fulfill with the help of an attorney:

  • Each parent’s name and address.
  • Name and age of any child or minor children in the parenting plan.
  • The jurisdiction controlling custody and visitation arrangements.
  • Overview of the distribution of parental responsibilities and authority.
  • Communication methods between each parent.
  • A schedule for equal parenting time on a day-to-day basis.
  • A schedule for special periods, such as whenever the child’s school is on break or holidays.
  • Transportation and exchange methods for visitation and custody.

A Florida attorney can offer to assist spouses who wish to modify parental responsibility appropriately.

Supervised or Safety Plans

A supervised or safety plan, or Form 12.995(b), is used when one parent feels that their child’s physical health is in danger with the ex-spouse sharing child custody.

Substantial changes like child abuse, domestic violence, or substance abuse must have occurred for Florida courts to consider parenting plan modifications.

According to Florida law, the following are key factors in the form:

  • Each parent’s commitment to following schedules, communicating, and engaging with their child.
  • The division of parental responsibility and duties, including third-party involvement.
  • The moral fitness of the parents.
  • The duration of the child’s stable living situation.
  • The child’s wishes if they are deemed capable by the court.
  • Any evidence of child neglect, domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, and sexual violence.
  • Evidence of a former spouse providing false information about prior abuse cases.
  • Each parent’s capacity to provide a stable environment for their child’s best interests.
  • Home or school records of the child or children involved.

If a parent seeks temporary custody, compelling evidence of severe circumstances regarding abuse must be shown.

Relocation or Long Distance Plans

A relocation or long-distance plan, or Form 12.995(c), focuses on time-sharing.

This plan is used when a parent with child custody relocates 50 miles or more away from Florida, bringing the child or children with them.

All parents and third parties entitled to the time-sharing schedule must sign this form. The third parties are non-parental individuals with caregiving rights for the child.

The form must include the following details:

  • Plans for maintaining a time-sharing schedule during relocation by both parents.
  • The parent who is responsible for the child’s health care, education, address used for school records, creating a community record, and extracurricular activities.
  • The communication methods between both parents.
  • Transportation methods related to time-sharing.

Regardless of the form type, all parenting plans must be modified toward the child’s best interests.

3. Sign the Parenting Plan in the Presence of a Notary

To sign the parenting plan with a notary, the following steps must be followed:

  1. Ensure the parenting plan is correctly drafted with all necessary details regarding child support, custody, visitation, and decision-making responsibilities.
  2. Present valid identification. Valid IDs include driver’s licenses, passports, or state-issued ID cards.
  3. Find a notary public to witness the signing. Notaries can be located in the following places:
    • Banks or credit unions
    • Courthouses
    • UPS stores
    • Public libraries
    • Private notary offices
  4. Show valid IDs, documents, and printed forms to the notary.
  5. Sign the parenting plan in the notary’s presence. The notary will then affix their official seal to the document.
  6. The notary completes the notary acknowledgment section, confirming that the parties signed the form willingly and in the notary’s presence.
  7. Pay any applicable notary fees.
  8. Once notarized, the parenting plan is now a legally binding document. Each parent must keep a copy as documentation.

A court-approved parenting plan cannot be modified without the notary’s acknowledgment. Ensure all steps are completed before presenting the modified plan to a judge.

4. Submit the Revised Plan to the Court

After the forms are signed by the notary, submit the revised plan to the court by following the steps below:

  1. File the modification form with a family clerk from the same court that issued the original parenting plan. Associated fees must be paid for the filing.
  2. The parent filing the modification must serve a copy of the form and any supporting documents to the other involved parent.
  3. After service, the family court schedules a final hearing to discuss any proposed change in the plan. The parties must coordinate with the court clerk to schedule the hearing.
  4. Both parties must attend the hearing. The judge reviews documents, modified plans, and testimonies from both parties. The required documents may include the following:
    1. Medical records
    2. School records
    3. Therapy records
    4. Police reports (if applicable)
  5. The judge finalizes which modifications fit the best interests of the child or children involved. Then, they issue a court order reflecting the modifications in the parenting plan.

How to Modify a Parenting Plan When Both Parents Are Not in Agreement

Modifying parenting plans when one party does not agree requires the party requesting modifications to submit substantial evidence and file a new court hearing.

Florida law states that these circumstances require both ex-spouses to defend their side in court,similar to divorce litigation.

1. Download and Draft a Petition

The parent requesting the modification must draft a supplemental petition through Form 12.905a. The form must note any unanticipated change from the parent sharing custody of the child or the time-sharing arrangements.

They must work with their attorney to identify the circumstances requiring modifications and gather enough evidence.

Serious evidence proving child neglect, alcohol abuse, disparate incomes causing conflicts, or other factors helps strengthen the case.

2. Identify Substantial Change to Existing Plan

The parent filing the petition must check which form aligns with any substantial change needed on the parenting plan after divorce, typically with the help of an attorney.

Next, the parent outlines specific modifications, implementation steps, and communication methods with the other parent.

This is necessary for the child’s best interests as clear plans help all involved adjust to new living arrangements post-divorce.

3. Sign the Parenting Plan in the Presence of a Notary

After completing the parenting plan and other documents listed below, the parent must have them signed in the presence of a notary.

Parents should provide valid IDs like passports or driver’s licenses. Notaries may be found in banks, public libraries, courthouses, or notary offices.

4. Complete Other Required Forms

Other than Form 12.905a, the following documents may also need to be completed and submitted to the other parent, notary, and court:

  • Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit [Form 12.902(d)]
  • Child Support Guidelines Worksheet [Form 12.902(e)]
  • Parenting Plan [(Form 12.995(a), 12.995(b), 12.995(c))]
  • Notice of Social Security Number [Form 12.902(j)]
  • Family Law Financial Affidavit [Form 12.902(b) or (c)]
  • Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure or Form 12.932 (for modifying child support arrangements)

Under Florida law, those submitting Form 12.932 must file it within 45 days of service or the process of a third party, such as a court clerk or sheriff submitting the petition to the other party.

These forms may be found on the Florida court’s website.

5. File the Petition

After completing all the forms and gathering evidence, the parent must file the form in the same Florida county where the original parenting plan was made.

Ensure that important documents such as a copy of the final judgment, petition, and supporting documents are included in the submission.

6. Serve the Other Parent Notice of the Petition

The parent must notify the other about the supplemental petition before the court date. They may use personal services if they know where the other parent lives after divorce.

Personal services involve informing the other party of the petition and modifications themselves.

If the other parent’s whereabouts are unknown or they live out of state, a constructive service is used, delivering legal notices discreetly through mail or newspapers by a neutral third party above 18.

Note that using constructive service may only receive limited relief in Florida due to its limited jurisdiction.

7. Determine Their Response

If personally served, the other parent has 20 days to respond to the petition. Then, the case proceeds in three ways:

  • Default: When the other party does not respond after 20 days.
  • Uncontested: If the other parent agrees with the modification and will attend the court hearing.
  • Contested: If one party disagrees with any modification, they file a counterpetition detailing the changes they oppose. This applies if disputes cannot be resolved.

The petitioner must file a Motion of Default if the first outcome happens.

Motion of Default

A Motion of Default is filed when one party has not responded to the court summons after 20 days. The non-responsive party loses the opportunity to participate in the hearing if granted.

In Florida, the petitioner must complete Form 12.922(a), or Motion of Default, then contact the clerk or attorney to schedule a final hearing.

8. Schedule a Hearing and Notify Other Parent of Date

The petitioning parent notifies their ex-spouse using a Notice of Hearing (General) or Form 12.922. If both agree to a hearing, they schedule it with the court.

If one parent disagrees or does not respond, the other files a Notice for Trial or Form 12.924 with the court clerk.

9. Attend Mediation if Required

If mediation is court-ordered before the final hearing, both parties must attend it in order to discuss improving parental responsibility and following modifications.

The party against the proposed changes can consult the divorce mediator regarding their proposed modifications.

10. Gather Resources for Trial

To support the necessity of modifications, these resources must be ready before the court date:

  • Documents proving any substantial change in the original parenting plan, like:
    • Police records
    • Financial documents
    • Medical documents
  • Witnesses such as grandparents, school teachers, family members, etc.
  • Expert testimonies from psychologists, social workers, or other professionals
  • Child custody arrangements in case the trial exceeds the estimated time

The two parties must attend the court hearing once all resources and arrangements have been made.

11. Attend Hearing or Trial

An uncontested trial requires both sides to present evidence supporting their case. The judge reviews the original plan and the requested modifications.

The judge will then listen to all arguments, experiences, and testimonies.

Serious cases where domestic violence and child abuse occurred may lead to additional court hearings for the offending former spouse.

12. Judgement from the Court

After analyzing all the testimonies and evidence, the judge outlines the terms and conditions of the new plan, such as changes for child custody, visitation, decision-making authority, and other important factors after divorce.

Finalization timelines for the ruling differ based on the case’s complexity. Simpler cases conclude quicker, while complex ones may extend, with rulings scheduled later.

Depending on the severity, the judge may grant temporary custody to one party if they feel that the child’s welfare is in danger.

Both ex-spouses may be ordered to attend a parenting course to ensure parental responsibility continues after the trial.

The course outlines different co-parenting methods that align with their child’s best interests.

How Much Does it Cost to Modify a Parenting Plan?

The cost to modify a parenting plan in Florida is $150. This includes a self-help service fee, filing fee, summons issue fee, and sheriff service fee.

The list below contains the fees that must be paid to modify a parenting plan in the State of Florida:

  • Self-Help Service Fee: $50.00
  • Filing Fee: $50.00
  • Summons Issue Fee: $10.00
  • Sheriff Service Fee $40.00

All of the above fees can be paid via cash, credit card, or money order.

What Are Valid Reasons for Modifying a Parenting Plan in Florida

In Florida, when minor children refuse to adhere to visitation as outlined in a child custody order, it can cause complications to final arrangements after divorce.

If a child refuses visitation, the custodial parent will encourage and facilitate the visitation as outlined in the court order. The non-custodial parent may work with the child and their ex-spouse to create arrangements for the child’s best interest.

However, for the new arrangements to be legally binding, they must follow the process of modifying the parenting plan and notify the court.

Physical Relocation

If one ex-spouse relocates 50 or more miles from the primary residence or leaves Florida boundaries, it can be grounds for modification.

This is especially true if the relocating parent has full custody, provides spousal support, or is relocating without the interests of the child in mind.

Other causes for relocation include a new job, new educational opportunities, or if severe circumstances require both to live separately.

One Parents Refusal to Adhere to the Terms of the Parenting Plan

Since both ex-spouses must follow the parenting plan after divorce, one parent’s refusal to follow its terms is grounds for modification.

It can be difficult to know what to do when one parent won’t adhere to the parenting plan, but submitting the right documents and requesting assistance from the court may help encourage cooperation from the other spouse.

Needs of the Child Have Changed

Any significant change in the child’s life constitutes a parenting plan modification. Some factors that may cause these changes include the following:

  • The child growing older
  • Physical and mental health of the child
  • Changes in schooling arrangements or educational requirements

Any changes must adhere to the interests of the child.

A Change in the Parent’s Situation

If a parent sharing custody of a child loses their job, moves in with a new partner or spouse, or engages in illegal acts after the divorce, a modification petition may be necessary.

This becomes more crucial if the changes go against the child’s best interest, such as leaving school or being unable to eat due to the mistakes one parent makes.

Modification is also needed if the offending party is responsible for paying child support or spousal support and their changed circumstances stop them from following regulations.

The other parent may then file for a parenting plan modification to protect the child or request emergency temporary custody from the court.

The Child is in Danger

Serious circumstances where a child is unsafe in their custodial parent’s home due to domestic violence, neglect, abuse, or any immoral acts may call for an immediate parenting plan modification.

An ex-spouse may request temporary custody, altered spousal support, and other changes in circumstances to fit the safety and interests of the child.

Any proposed change in the plan must not cause negative effects on the divorce and ensure a smooth process for everyone’s best interest.

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